As your body prepares itself for childbirth, there may be effects on your digestive system which can result in indigestion, heartburn and constipation. These problems are normal during pregnancy and do not have any long-term effects. However, having a knowledge of how they occur, and what you can do about them, will make it easier for you to deal with them.
During pregnancy, some of the hormones produced by the body can make the muscles of the stomach and intestine relax. Relaxation of the stomach muscles will slow down the rate at which your stomach empties itself and can cause a sense of fullness and indigestion. A slowing down of your intestinal movements can result in constipation. In later stages of pregnancy, the pressure of the enlarged uterus on your stomach can also cause indigestion, heartburn and nausea.
• You may experience a feeling of fullness and bloating, loss of appetite and regurgitation.
• You should avoid foods that cause trouble, e.g. spicy and oily foods.
• Try eating smaller and more frequent meals.
• Sit up straight when eating so that there is less pressure on your stomach.
Heartburn is more than just indigestion. It is a strong burning pain in the chest due to reflux of acid from the stomach into the food pipe.
To avoid heartburn:
• Avoid eating or drinking for a few hours before bed time. An after-dinner walk may help.
• Sleep well propped up raising the head of your bed or having plenty of pillows.
Keep a glass of milk handy. Drink a glass of milk in case you wake-up with a heartburn at night.
If you are having difficulty passing stools, the following steps can help
1. Include plenty of fibre in your diet by eating wholemeal breads, wholegrain cereal, fruit, vegetables, beans and dal.
2. Keep up your muscle tone with regular exercise.
3. Drink plenty of water.
4. If you are taking an iron medication that is contributing to your constipation, talk to your doctor about changing the medication.